Superman: The Unauthorized Biography
Glen Weldon (Author)
A celebration of Superman's life and history - in time for his 75th birthday. How has the Big Blue Boy Scout stayed so popular for so long? How has he changed with the times, and what essential aspects of him have remained constant? This fascinating biography examines Superman as a cultural phenomenon through 75 years of action-packed adventures, from his early years as a social activist in circus tights to his growth into the internationally renowned demigod he is today.
Hardcover: 352 pages
Note: As previously reported on the Superman Homepage, the eighth disc in the Ultimate Superman Collector's Edition set as released on November 28, 2006 erroneously contains only the 2001 movie-only edition of "Superman III". The reviewer reviewed the stand-alone DVD of "Superman III" which contains the deluxe edition with all bonus features. This review presupposes that Warner Brothers will follow through on their plan to make all fans who purchased the Ultimate Collector's Edition whole by providing a DVD that is identical in content to the stand-alone product.
"Superman III: Deluxe Edition" is another well-put-together disc in the Superman Ultimate Collector's Edition set. However, like the 1983 film itself, the seams may be beginning to show a bit in this presentation. Aside from the initial release actually including the wrong disc, attempts to clean up the film have inadvertently pulled back the curtain, showing flying wires in places. In addition, though the bonus content is a highlight, several minutes of deleted scenes that had been shown on the first ABC-TV telecast of the film do not show up in the deleted scenes section. Virtually all of the missing deleted scenes come from the last section of the film - as if the people working on the DVD either just gave up or decided they'd seen enough.
Admittedly, "Superman III" tends to get a bad rap by fans. That isn't to say it doesn't have top-notch special effects even with semi-visible wires. That's not even to say it isn't a laugh-out-loud funny movie at times. Christopher Reeve is certainly committed to the role and brings interesting new dimensions to Clark Kent and Superman. It's not the worst Richard Pryor film made in the 1980s. And Annette O'Toole was born to play Lana Lang.
In fact, by Hollywood's most objective measure, money, "Superman III" was a successful film in that it made more money than it cost to make. The film's U.S. domestic gross was about $60 million - which stands in marked contrast to 1987's "Superman IV: The Quest for Peace". In that respect, I agree with "Superman III" Executive Producer Ilya Salkind when he insists on the supplementary materials that "Superman III" was a success.
Nonetheless, as a franchise film, if "Superman III" didn't blow up the gravy train, it certainly began the process of slowing down the ride. Both reviewers and audiences had mixed reactions to the film which may have resulted in a decline in the public's interest in seeing further film adventures of Superman for a while.
Richard Lester had a free hand directing "Superman III" unlike the head-start he received in taking over for Richard Donner on "Superman II". As a result, Lester's taken a lot of the heat over the years for "Superman III" and this deluxe disc will do little to change that perception. It's too bad he declined to participate in any of the new bonus materials.
I enjoyed the commentary tracks by Salkind and the other surviving film producer Pierre Spengler on "Superman" and "Superman II" as it's clear the pair came armed with facts about how each film was made. They're still quite entertaining and informative this time out, though, perhaps unsurprisingly, there are more moments of silence during this commentary track than on the commentaries for the previous two films. Salkind loses a little bit of his credibility - though he retains his good humor throughout -- when he attempts to defend the real-world ability of a drunk computer programmer to cause the little man in the "Walk" box to fight the little man in the "Do Not Walk" box.
Though I pride myself on knowing as much as I can about the Superman film series, Salkind's commentary surprised me with a piece of Superman trivia I was heretofore unaware of - that Salkind considered an actor who later appeared in "Superman Returns" for the role of Ross Webster.
In addition to the commentary track, trailer, and deleted scenes, this disc includes the highly entertaining "The Making of Superman III" which was produced to promote the movie in 1983. I remember watching this special when it originally aired - it's where I learned that little Aaron Smolinski, who played the truck-lifting baby Kal-El in "Superman", returned as the boy at the photo booth who almost discovers Clark's secret in the opening of "Superman III".
Although "Superman III" still feels the least-connected to the Superman mythology than any other film in the series, the extensive supplementary materials should more than satisfy most Superman completists.